On June 26, 2017, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued an updated Examination Guideline 01-17, consistent with the recent Matal v. Tam, 582 U.S.___ (2017), ruling by the United States Supreme Court, and for which our analysis was the subject of a previous post. In that decision, the Supreme Court held that the disparagement clause of §2(a) of the Lanham Act violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by prohibiting registration of trademarks that may disparage persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols.
Going forward, the Trademark Examiners will not refuse trademark registration based on this provision of §2(a). Any currently suspended application will proceed to examination under other aspects of the TMEP. An application which was abandoned due to a §2(a) refusal, but is within the timeframe for filing a petition to revive, may be revived through such mechanism. See TMEP 1714.01. However, the subject matter of an abandoned application with is beyond the timeframe for filing a petition to revive can only be re-examined through the filing of a new application.
A caveat to the Guideline is that constitutionality of the companion clause to disparagement, the scandalousness clause, is still awaiting decision before the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit with the In re Brunetti case. Any suspended application will remain suspended until Brunetti is decided. It is expected that the scandalousness clause, like the disparagement clause, will be struck down.